Dissension Splits Coast Delegation

While house members twiddled their thumbs instead of voting on bond bills, Roger Ishee missed a grandparents day lunch.

"We've been here since a week ago Monday, and we've accomplished absolutely nothing," the Gulfport representative said.

Ishee blamed his own South Mississippi delegation for the special session squabble. When asked how unified the South Mississippi delegation at this point, a visibly angry Ishee said, "Split wide open. Worse than its ever been."

Then, Ishee was asked if the delegation could accomplish anything to benefit South Mississippi, if it was a divided group? He simply said, "We can't."

Bickering and back stabbing between South Mississippi lawmakers are not things you normally hear in Jackson. The South Mississippi delegation usually speaks with a unified voice. And quite often, that togetherness produces legislation that benefits the coast. But this battle may need more than a band aid to heal.

"Politics is playing a role," said Pass Christian representative Diane Peranich. "But we didn't inject it."

Peranich and some of her House democrats blame the governor for the special session impasse. Republicans blame caucus groups and the House leadership. In the chambers, and in the media, South Mississippi lawmakers are turning on one another.

"How can someone vote against jobs in their own district?" Ishee asked, referring to a Peranich vote early last week.

Peranich responded by questioning why most of the bonds in the $108 million bill were added at the last minute.

"You as a taxpayer deserve more than an hour's look at $100 million in bills," she said.

Rep. Michael Janus believes the house is divided.

"It isn't really partisan. It's just frustrating that we can't seem to get the job done, particularly the coast delegation," Janus said.

And that's what has so many people scratching their heads. According to one veteran lawmaker, he's never seen South Mississippi house members so divided on an issue. The divided delegation is apparently a problem just in the House.

A coast senator said that on the other side of the Capitol, South Mississippi senators remain unified. Remember, it only took senators one hour to approve the original $108 million bond proposal.